29/9/16 – All good things

Final get-up of the trip. Was a little earlier today, since w wanted to make the most of the pool whilst we could. The forecast is… sunny, yay. Got into my bikini, put together my beach bag and down to the pool we went. We found ourselves some sunbeds in the sun and we were well away. It was blisteringly hot.I started off reading and ended up finishing my Kelley Armstrong book, so I then switched to lying on my front so that I could tan my back. Had to take short breaks to go and stand in the shallow end to cool down every now and then.

When the sun disappeared behind the very big hotel, we figured we’d be best to go back to the room. We Skyped Kel, all showered in procession and got the rest of our stuff packed up. We moved everything downstairs and got a shuttle service to the airport. The first thing we wanted once we’d got through customs was food. Went to some little take-out restaurant place. I had what was supposedly Jamaican jerk chicken breast with rice and plantains. It definitely wasn’t jerk anything. Just a grilled chicken breast with a bit of sauce on it. I’m still not entirely sure what plantains are, other than that they’re not nice. It was filling enough though.

After that, we went to check out duty free. Always a good place for restocking our alcohol cupboard and Miami airport didn’t fail us. I got a big, fat 1.75L bottle of Smirnoff for only twenty-three dollars. Sometimes you’re hard pressed to get even a litre for that amount at home. They also had the fancy Belvedere stuff for only thirty-three dollars – again, cheaper than at home. Since I’d never tried it before, I decided to get a pink grapefruit bottle as a birthday present to myself for next week. We also got a refill on Cointreau, since we get through quite a lot of that when we do cocktail nights in.

We went to a little bar afterwards for mimosas, then I ran to grab some drinks from one of the shops before we had to board. Fabby in-flight entertainment once again. I’d watched half of Elvis and Nixon before we’d even taken off. Charming film, though they really couldn’t have got an uglier Elvis. At least Evan Peters kept it up on the eye candy front. Following the same actor theme, once we were up in the air, I decided to rewatch X-Men Apocalypse. I then got distracted by a spectacular electrical storm that we were flying by and managed to get some good photos through the window.

Food then came during X-Men. I forget how weird Air France food is. Bread roll, fine; wheatgerm and shiitake mushroom rice salad, eh; chicken and rice, ropey; apple sauce, okay; chocolate brownie thing, okay. Even the cheese was really weird. I remember Air France being better for the snacks, so maybe we’ll have to wait for that. The one upside was that I got a glass of champagne with my meal, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Unsurprisingly, I felt a little tired after the food and champers, so I decided to go with a movie I knew well, since it meant I wouldn’t have to concentrate too much.

That meant opting for Princess and the Frog, which instead succeeded in waking me up, as it made me want to have a singalong. Like any Disney, it also has its super sad moments. I already felt super emotional about leaving America behind and if I didn’t shed a tear over Princess and the Frog, then I definitely did over Big Hero 6, which I saved till last and watched afterwards. I have a definite love-hate relationship with that movie, very much like with Clannad. Serious adoration for it, but it still breaks my heart every time. Fuck you, Disney. I switched to writing after that and did another couple of flash fictions.

We landed in Paris after the eight hour flight and were now six hours ahead in time. These time zones really are so confusing, especially when you haven’t slept. The flight was then delayed half an hour. That always sucks worse when you’re coming home, because you have nothing to look forward to. By this point, all you want is to get home. Thankfully, the flight itself was only about an hour long. I listened to some music for a bit, watched some Psych and was so tired by that time, that I slept through on and off until landing. I kept doing that whole nodding dog thing, but at one point when I did it, we’d already landed. Guess it worked out to an extent. My ears are usually excruciating when landing, so I was glad I skipped that part.

Baggage claim and passport control were fairly simple and we were outside and in a taxi within twenty-five minutes. Thank god. It had been a long day, made worse by the fact that I’ve never been so depressed to come home. What with the fact that my closest friends don’t live so nearby – two of them technically living overseas – besides Kel and the dog, I really didn’t feel much reason to come back at all. My love affair with America is just far too great and seems to be getting stronger all the time. Maybe now it won’t be so much as saving for the next trip, but saving towards moving there on a more permanent basis. I need to hurry up and start getting my books published.

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Now that’s entertainment.

27/9/16 -Let’s go to the mall

Lazy start of reading, playing my Disney game and getting ready. We decided we’d go shopping first, since Mom wanted to go to a mall – I told her we could only go if she pronounced it right, rather than ‘mal’, like she kept calling it – and then we’d hit either the beach or the pool. We went to the Coral something or other mall. I really hate shopping. Mom wanted to look at clothes and homeware stuff, so I occupied myself by getting some more notebooks and also a pair of happy little pineapple earrings. Not a bad result, but I was still bored within the first twenty minutes.

When we came out, it was starting to rain, so we braved a dash to the car and then went off in search of food. We ended up in a place called Miller’s Ale House. I asked for an Orange Crush cocktail and gave the server my driving license when he asked for ID. He took it off to the manager, came back and said that they couldn’t serve me because it’s an out of country license. What the hell? My license is obviously not fake and it clearly shows my birth date on there, showing that I’m turning twenty-seven in a few weeks and am definitely long past the legal drinking age requirement of twenty-one. So even though I’m way old enough and provided legit ID like they asked, they still wouldn’t serve me. What bollocks. I grudgingly had to have pop instead. It kinda rubbed it in more that the pop was also called Orange Crush – it just wasn’t alcohol. Come on, guys. I got ID’ed at plenty of places and none of them cared that my license wasn’t American.

For food, I had garlic chicken zingers over a plate of fries loaded with cheese, bacon and spring onion. It wasn’t overly successful. They still managed to mess up my order and gave me blue cheese dressing instead of the ranch I asked for – yuck! I then managed to drop one of the zingers on the floor, which Mom found hilarious and wanted me to try kicking it underneath my chair at the people behind us. My mother, ladies and gentlemen. Clearly misbehaving.

After lunch, we drove a little way down the road and then stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts, because Mom was craving. I had a caramel apple croissant donut. Quite nice. A little like a mix between a donut and an apple turnover. Though I have to say I still prefer Krispy Kremes. It was still raining by this point, so our pool/beach plan was out the window. With nothing else to really do – other than finding another mall, which I definitely wasn’t feeling – we went back to the room for a while. More reading, more Disney game, a Red Bull and another episode of Psych, as well as Skyping Kel.

After an hour or so, it had finally stopped raining, so me and Mom decided to madly get into our swimwear and go down to the pool anyway. It was very cloudy and everything was wet, but it was still perfectly warm enough to sit out in my bikini, if a little pointless when there was no hope of sun. I watched more Psych and read more before it started getting late and we conceded we may as well just go back to the room. I hit the drinks early to compensate for the lack of sunbathing before we very slowly got ready to go out.

We went to a restaurant just round the back of the pizza place called the Parrot Lounge. Another place with a really nice bar. I had a Parrot Ocean Breeze, which was mango rum, blue curacao and orange and pineapple juice. Really nice, even if it looked physically like swamp water. I didn’t fancy much from the menu, so I went for the supreme nachos that are supposedly a starter. My god, it was definitely a good decision. They were friggin’ huge and topped with cheese, chilli, sour cream and jalapenos. The salsa came on the side, which suited me to a tee since I don’t like salsa all that much. Despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much around here, I definitely approve of the places we have found.

Came back to the room after for more drinks, more Impractical Jokers, more reading and more bed. Y’know, the usual. Even better as it was one of the particularly hilarious episodes of Jokers with the corn maze. Night all.

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I promise there’s nachos in there somewhere. And yes, I’m aware I mostly post photos of food.

22/9/16 – Doing as the locals do

Got up semi-early to get ready and pack the last few things before leaving our nice Miami apartment. A friend of Lydia’s picked us up and took us to the Alamo to fetch our car and didn’t even want to charge us for the ride! We still tipped him, of course. Our car wasn’t ready yet, but the man behind the desk upgraded us to a bigger one free of charge to save us spending our vacation sitting in the Alamo. I do love Americans. There was also the Latino double of Oliver Hudson working on the desk. I genuinely thought it was really him (and that he’d super downgraded his career somehow) until I heard him speak.

Our car was a big Dodge Journey that I quickly dubbed Harry (Hazza if you’re feeling casual). It’s so good to have a car to just pile everything into, rather than having to lug around various bags and cases, particularly the box that’s filled with alcohol. Both the Alamo guy and our unofficial taxi driver commented on how it was the most important piece of luggage we were carrying. Not untrue. We only drove about an hour out of Miami before we had to stop off at a Burger King. Hunger is real, people, even if Burger King is pretty unsatisfying when you consider the wide variety of eating options here.

Back on the road again. Watched an episode of Psych and then we were distracted by a Walmart. Actually the first one we’ve seen. Finally got my big box of Seagrams, as well as more Red Bull, Sunny D, Milk Duds and a giant bag of popcorn. Then I discovered the clothes section and got very distracted indeed. I ended up picking out a stripy jumper dress of all things, but it was just too nice to pass up and as Mom pointed out, it was very me. Everyone knows black and red is my colour scheme. Even better, I also got various pairs of boxers with Deadpool, Batman and Wonder Woman on them. There were some lovely Harley Quinn ones, but sadly, they only had them in massive sizes.

By the time we were leaving, it was pouring with rain, so we had to wait it out a little before we were brave enough to make a run for it to the car. Thankfully, we didn’t have anymore distraction stops. I’d planned on using the driving time to write, but the drive was so nice that I ended up just watching through the window instead and taking the odd photo. Definitely some lovely views driving into the Keys. We booked into our very cute hotel in Key Largo and had a mill around in the room for a while. Had a little read and then Skyped Kel for a bit. I don’t think she’s enjoying hamster-sitting for Wilson, since he managed to get out of his ball. Yes, I named my hamster after a ball and yes, it’s ironic that he’s tried to make his grand escape from it on a few occasions.

Headed on out after that and had a little wander around the area. We walked down the waterfront first and found some lovely red and blue wrasse, stripy little Angelfish looking Sergeant Majors and some teeny, teeny jellyfish. We then went inwards and onto the street that ran parallel to the water. It was so freaking adorable. It was like being in a proper little fishing village, which I guess technically, we were. All of the houses were built up above the first storey with open patios underneath, besides the garages, clearly prepared for any potential flooding. They all looked really nice and cute though and everyone had their own unique mailboxes, like ones that were being held up by a manatee or alligator statue.

After exploring everything there pretty much was to explore – which really was only a little – we went to a restaurant called Sharkey’s, where we got to sit upstairs out on the balcony, overlooking the waterfront. Now this was just the most perfect night. I had a literal bucketful of a cocktail called Sharkbite Punch, which was mango and passionfruit rum, pineapple and orange juice and grenadine. To go with that, I decided to be adventurous and went with the beer battered fresh shrimp and sea fries. I’m really fussy with seafood and had to ask for them to be served without the tails on, so it was a brave step for me, but god, it was such a good choice. It was so fresh and so tasty and I felt so pleased that I’d chose to be adventurous. As well as the food and drink being delicious, there was a musician playing an acoustic set of great covers of songs I love like Three Doors Down, Oasis and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then we even got to sit and watch an electrical storm out over the river where the lightning made the clouds light up pink and blue. Talk about the most incredible atmosphere. Everything was just perfect.

Suitably stuffed and with Mom certainly not wanting any more cocktails after our buckets, we headed back to the room. I had a few of my Mike’s Hard Lemonade and read, then planned to watch the rest of Sahara and then do some writing. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it – Dad discovered Impractical Jokers on the telly, so I had no choice but to watch that after only watching a little more of Sahara. Guess we’ll try again tomorrow.

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Now that’s entertainment.

16/9/16 – Hush up and look at the gumbo

Got up early, but not crazy six o’clock early. Jet lag usually has me awake much earlier, but waiting until ten-ish to go to sleep clearly helped to get us back on track. Slowly got ready for the day and headed down for breakfast. I was delighted to see that there was a self-serve pancake machine. Never knew such a thing existed, but it was super easy to use and they had maple syrup, cream and rainbow sprinkles to put on top. Had my pancakes, as well as an egg patty and some mini sausages. The sausages were so tasty that I went back for more. Was tempted to do the same with the pancakes, but a queue had developed by that time. I’ll have second breakfast tomorrow instead.

We went out for a wander and found our way down onto the riverfront. I spotted the Natchez further down on the dock and actually managed to do some navigating on where to go, based on what I remembered from last time. We managed to get tickets for the morning Natchez cruise, since Mom wanted to go on a real steamboat and I knew that was the only real one here. Hopefully, the boring narrator guy that we had last time will have retired by now. We had a few hours before we were due to board, so we went off in search of drinks in the meantime.

We found Café du Monde, but it was horrendously packed with the queue lining up outside, so we opted to keep going and find somewhere else instead. No beignets today. We went to the Market Café and I had a very nice Mango Madness cocktail. At ten o’clock in the morning. Because why not? They had a jazz band playing, like many places in New Orleans, and it was a nice relaxation spot. From there, we had a wander through their version of the rag market and popped into a couple of shops. I got a jazzy shot glass from Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop.

We then came back to board the Natchez. They had the woman on top again playing the pipe organ from the steam. No Carpenters this time though. Mom thought it was cute, but then quickly got annoyed by it. We got some seats up on the top deck and surprise, surprise, the boring narrator has still retained his job. I chose to ignore him, since I remembered a lot of the history from my last visit. The lasting damage from Hurricane Katrina is still astonishing on the docks. I then started to rain a little too much for us to want to sit in, so we moved down a deck and grabbed a little table near the open side and spent the remainder of the cruise there.

After we disembarked, we were in need of food and I was also super in need of a drink from being sat in the heat. We went to a steak and seafood bar and I had loaded cheese fries. Except they told me they were fries. They were actually potato wedges. I don’t mind potato wedges, but there’s only so much you can eat before they become really sickly, so I didn’t actually finish mine. We then spent forever looking for a Walgreen’s that we’d spotted earlier, to the point where even I was remembering all the same streets as we kept looping round, since Dad’s a horrible navigator. I miss Kel and her in-built satnav. Thankfully, we eventually stumbled upon a CVS instead and I was able to replace my heat protection spray that had emptied during the flight and also bought some Red Bull and Funyuns for the room. Yay, Funyuns. I’ve missed you.

It started to rain by this point, so we decided to head back towards the hotel for a while to shower and things before going back out for tea. The rain was sporadic and switched between being heavy and light. We tried to wait out one of the heavier spells in a bar and had some homemade Hurricanes – which were way too strong – but it didn’t lighten up again, so we had to chance the rest of the way with our umbrellas. Showered as soon as we got back, then Skyped with Kel for a bit, had my Red Bull and did some reading for an hour or so before getting ready to go back out.

I’d already iterated my deep love for the Gumbo Shop from my last trip here, so that was where we were headed. The wait for tables was actually out of the door, which was initially concerning, but their turnaround service is crazy good and we were in there in no time. I had everything I had last time. Chicken andouille gumbo with bread and a frozen strawberry daiquiri. God, it was just as good as I remembered. Mom had the same and loved it too, so I was pleased that I hadn’t just bigged it up. Even more pleased that she wants to go back, because I’m clearly down with that.

From there, we found our way onto the wonderful Bourbon Street and I directed us towards Pat O’Brien’s. We were given a table out in the courtyard. It had stopped raining, the fire fountain was going, they wiped everything down for us and brought Hurricanes over to our table. Best. They were properly mixed Hurricanes too and way better than the ones we’d had earlier. We sat in there for a while and ended up making friends with a lad from Boston called Nick, who I think Mom wanted to adopt. He was super big on traveling too and wanted recommendations for time-lengths and things to do in the UK and other places in Europe too.

After we left Pat O’Brien’s, we carried on down Bourbon Street. I stopped off at one of the Tropical Isle places to get a Hand Grenade to-go. Just as yummy as I remembered. I pretty much downed it all by the time we got back to our hotel, but didn’t feel in the slightest bit merry. Sadly, the downside to going with the oldies is that they were point blank ready for bed. I stayed up and read for a while before conceding to do the same. I then had to get up twenty minutes later and be horrendously sick, despite the fact that I still didn’t feel like the drinks had touched me at all. Guess that’s just a mark of a good night.

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Gumbo, gumbo, in the pot… We need a princess; what you got?

28/6/14 – What are these clouds?

Woke up from a sexy Slade Wilson dream, oh yeah. Watched more Darker Than Black, then we all got ready in turn to go hunting for food. It turned out that Panorama had a little snack bar on the beach so we went there. It was really odd – we had to go down some steps and then through what seemed to be somebody’s vegetable patch. I had a jacket potato with cheese and beans and because we were there I just had to have the halloumi cheese again. Sooo good. We went into the bakery a few doors down after for pudding. I had strawberry ice cream and cherries and cream frozen yoghurt. Nothing on Entices, but still yummy.

We spent a few hours on the beach. I did more writing and had my usual Kopparberg. We were horrified though when it actually started to get cloudy! What are these clouds! So we buggered off to do a bit of shopping instead. Mel needed leggings for her horse riding tomorrow, as well as a new suitcase because hers literally exploded on the flight over. We all needed shaving cream too. We ended up getting men’s cream because it was a lot cheaper. I’m assuming it’ll work the same.

Had Red Bull and sangria in the apartment amongst reading, watching Psych and Darker Than Black and getting ready. Had a Hawaii Five-O at the bar and Skyped the oldies for a bit, whilst Mel watched the Brazil game. We watched the penalties with her before going to Mythos for food. Typical that we were going to the restaurant furthest away when we then all needed the loo. I had a Rainbow cocktail and saganaki to start. Now this was proper saganaki! I had my second shot at chicken curry and struck lucky with that too. It was gorgeous – definitely how I remember! We then got free Sex on the Beach shooters with the bill.

There was a boardwalk across the beach right by our table, so we headed down to the sea front after we paid to watch the waves for a bit. They were pretty crazy and made even spookier in the dark. We came back up onto the strip and into one of the tourist shops. Me and Mel went crazy as soon as we got inside and started playing with all the toys and instruments. I then got super carried away with buying stuff. I bought a few things for Flick, a fairy sat on top of a harlequin mask for Kay and a green wooden cow (I do love cows), a snake ring and a Green Day guitar ornament for myself. These shops are clearly aimed at people like me.

We then went for a drink in Edam. I had a lovely sangria that came with lots of fruit (my five a day again!) We watched a good chunk of the Colombia v. Uruguay game and rooted for Colombia since they’re Kel’s team in the sweepstakes. They won too! Their double scorer James Rodriguez did great (and I immediately took a shine to him because of his name), but their goalie was an absolute star player. It was a genuinely great game, even though one of Uruguay’s players carried out a really dirty tackle (if you could even call it a tackle when the ball was nowhere near – it was more a kick and a knee in the back just to be a dick) and only got yellow carded for it. Luis Suarez leads a team of hooligans, clearly.

Back to the apartment afterwards. We’ve hit the point where we’ve been trying to figure out what restaurants we want to go back to and how many we can fit in. Always a sad point of holiday when you have to start any kind of budgeting with food.

Couldn't get up onto the high stools because of my leg. Like there wasn't already an obvious height difference.

Couldn’t get up onto the high stools because of my leg. Like there wasn’t already an obvious height difference.

12/11/13 – Braving the cold… and then chickening out

Since we didn’t have any particular plans we got to have a lie-in and a much more relaxed morning of very slowly getting ready. We wanted to Skype the oldies since we wouldn’t have chance after going out, but messenger Sid told us they were at the Harvester. Rude. We decided to wait for them to get back and watched some old videos from when we first got Izzy in the meantime. Aww. I miss my woofies pretty much more than anyone! We then Skyped Mom for a while, and also Dad for a little bit. Told some porkies about only just flying to Chicago today.

We then layered up as much as we could (five layers and three pairs of socks!) and got the shuttle back to the airport. Oh my god… We’d prepared for the worst but it was still way colder than we’d expected at minus something degrees. We had a little wander round the airport to gage the temperature a little before we got the tram downtown. We decided it was just too cold without either of us having coats, so Chicago will have to remain a mystery for this trip. Before leaving we went further into the airport because I was still craving Red Bull. It was ridiculously expensive, but I didn’t even care by this point. We then hopped on the shuttle back to the hotel.

It was a shame, but at least it was warm in our room. I watched a couple of episodes of Psych, Durarara!!, then we both watched a bunch of Whose Line clips. That was pretty much it. It beat being out in the cold though. We’ll have to try and cover Chicago on another trip. Preferably in the summer. I repacked my case so that it was basically ready for tomorrow. Our last night here if you don’t count the one of travelling tomorrow! If I’m honest though I feel I’m ready to go home now. The cold’s put me off more than anything. And I miss my family, my friends and my woofies. Plus I’m dying for some real fish and chips.

This is what happens when we’re stuck in one room for two whole days.

11/11/13 – We were not prepared for this

Painful get-up for half two to get ready and finish packing. We headed to the airport and bid farewell to Klaus! I had a bit of a Psych day and watched an episode whilst waiting in the airport, then another on the plane. I also finished off Jet Lag, my Cobie and Crispin one-shot. The flight to Chicago was about four hours – it was actually our first direct one this whole year. But oh man, were we in for a shock when we landed… I’d been anticipating it would be cooler than the west coast, but I hadn’t expected it to be even colder than back home. And I certainly hadn’t expected it to be snowing! It was really horrific!

Also Chicago, why do you have cling film on your toilets? That’s just a bit weird.

I was worried our hotel wouldn’t be near anything, since I was starving (and certainly didn’t want to go wandering around in the snow!) But amazingly, there was actually a restaurant right in our hotel! So I was happy – I had a steak sandwich for lunch. We lost two hours in the timezone changeover, but it did mean we were only six hours behind home instead. We Skyped Sid for a while and drew on Kel’s chin, which was pretty hilarious. I watched another episode of Psych too. I had a huge Red Bull dilemma, in that there was nowhere for me to get any (the vending machine in the lobby only did Zero, sob!) so I had to break into my Elvis energy drink from Winter Park as an emergency. Hopefully the empty can will still survive the last trip.

We ordered Chinese for tea. I don’t know what it is about American ordering systems, but we have a variety of problems every single time we try ordering takeout. Whilst we were waiting I ran down to get some drinks from the bar to bring back to the room. I was glad I wasn’t staying – I got hit on within the first thirty seconds! The Chinese was amazing though. I had lo-mein and fried rice. I just love the novelty of those cute little takeout boxes too. We then watched an awesome episode of South Park that played on superheroes, Totoro and the idea of Kenny having reincarnation powers. “I die over and over again and you assholes never remember anything!” Brilliant! I also got interviewed by a girl on Wattpad. Awesome.

Welcomed with bad weather. Feels like home!